Monday, October 31, 2016

We Were Kids

A devotional pamphlet I was reading carried a brief story about a young man named Darrell Blizzard who had grown up in an orphanage. He was attending Penn State for his first semester of college. The year was 1942 and World War II was in full swing. All those who were recently out of high school and beginning college were keeping an eye on the war, especially on the draft. If they were drafted they would automatically go into the Army, and probably to combat positions on the front line. 

Darrell had always been interested in flying, and attempted to enlist in the Army Air Corps. Following several setbacks to get into training schools, he finally found himself a member of Air Corps, inducted in Pennsylvania, but attending Basic Training in Florida.  It was in North Carolina where he actually started some training in a Piper Cub, which was just a frame of an airplane, with canvas covered body and wings. 

His desire to become a bomber pilot sent him to training in Marfa, Texas and Hobbs, New Mexico, facilities which are no longer operating. While reflecting on the long hours of training and schooling, Darrell was quoted by a reporter that the largest thing he had driven was  a four-mule plow team, and now he was flying a four engine B-17 bomber. He was also quoted as saying, "We were all just a bunch of kids in combat regions, flying missions which could have tremendous impact on the outcome of the war."

I failed to mention when our story started, Darrell Blizzard was 17 years old. After all his training and schooling, He was 19 and about to turn 20, and carrying a huge responsibility in his task as a bomber pilot. He later became an airline pilot so we can understand how flying was his passion. 

Would we question someone that young and inexperienced to have such a responsibility?  Even in the church when a task is assigned to someone in their youth, we are reluctant and often uncomfortable giving responsibility to some because of their age.  We want them to have experience.....successful experience before we trust them with important duties. 

That devotional magazine I was reading mentioned several examples from the Bible which might make us think otherwise.  1 Samuel 2:18 says, "Samuel ministered before the Lord, even as a child." And remember the story of David when was told on several occasions that he was too young to be a soldier and fight against the Philistines. He was told he was not able to fight Goliath, because he was still a youth.  Another example is Mary. All indications have us thinking she was a very young woman when the announcement was made to her that she would give birth to the Son of God.  Then one more is the attitude of Paul as he told his young ministry student, Timothy, "Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to all believers."

God places great value on every child of His, regardless of age, when they place their trust in Him. My challenge to you today is to spend some time praying for those who are young in their Christian walk, and then on Sunday at church, give them some words of encouragement and let them know how much you appreciate their example.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Our Worship

Lord, may our worship be in Spirit and in Truth.  Amen.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Does Prayer Change Things?

Do you remember Hezekiah from the Old Testament? He was the 13th king of Judah and reigned somewhere around 700+ years before the birth of Christ. As far as I can tell, Hezekiah was a pretty good king and his reign brought forth numerous religious reforms. He worked hard to bring an end to the worship of other gods, and to restore allegiance to the one true God. 

2 Kings 20 tells the story of Hezekiah becoming gravely ill and describes his as being near death. The prophet Isaiah came to him and gave him the news, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

 We would be safe in assuming that was not good news for Hezekiah. After all, a prophet had delivered God's decree to him, telling him he was going to die. The Bible tells us Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall and began to pray.  In his prayer, he mentions his faithfulness to God and recounts his devotion to doing only those things that were right in God's eyes. Hezekiah kept praying and weeping.

God's prophet, Isaiah, had already left but had not gotten very far before God sent him back to Hezekiah with these words. "This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.”

Hezekiah's prayer had touched the heart of God and instead of hearing the echo of a message of death, he was now hearing that God was going to heal him. Not only that, God also promised to add 15 years to his life and deliver Hezekiah and his people from the hand of the king of Assyria. 

I remember seeing a movie which showed the flashing neon sign on the front of an old run-down church building, "Prayer Changes Things."  It sure changed some things for Hezekiah. It brought him healing, a longer life and deliverance. 

Do we have the confidence that our prayers, according to the will of God, can bring us healing and life and deliverance?  If we focus on faithfulness and devote ourselves to doing things which are right in God's eyes, I think we can have that confidence. 

Our study on prayer, specifically intercessory prayer, has taught us of God's willingness to hear and answer when we pray. In Hezekiah's story where he prayed for himself, or in our praying for God to bless the lives of others, God's love for us is seen in the infinite God listening to finite man, and answering his prayers. 

Prayer does change things, and an improvement in our prayer lives will show that to be true. My prayer is that God will bless and strengthen you as you grow closer to Him. 


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Dining with Jesus

It was on the Sabbath when Jesus went to eat a meal at the home of a prominent Pharisee.  The Scripture in Luke 14 tells us Jesus was being watched carefully.  Sitting right in front of Jesus was a man who was sick. His body was abnormally swelling, and that brought Jesus to ask his Pharisee hosts and the highly regarded experts of the law,  "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?"  They refused to answer, so Jesus healed the sick man.

 Then Jesus wanted them to answer another question. "If you child or your ox falls into a well on the Sabbath day, are you going to pull it out?" For the second time, they refused to answer. 

Meanwhile, back in the dining room, Jesus was noticing how the arriving guests were picking places of honor at the dining table.  So Jesus told the parable about being invited to a wedding feast, and tells them not to take the place of honor.  There is a chance someone more distinguished than you might show up and the host will have you move to another place so the distinguished guest can have the place of honor. No doubt that would cause humiliation.  Jesus went on to say you should be seated in the lowest place, then the host will probably have you move up to a better place.  That will bring more honor to you in the presence of the other guests.  Sounds like a lot of ado about nothing, but Jesus had something else to say which makes it very important.  "For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Verses 12-14 gives additional etiquette lessons. 12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Now wait.....when we host a dinner, don't we do that to show off a bit?  We want our guests to see how nice our home is, or to get some idea of our success, or maybe everyone can be amazed at how many influential people we know.  Jesus shows us the better way,  "But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed."  He was getting us to see our real motives in making our guest list.  Are we hosting a dinner and inviting those we know will invite us to their house to watch them show off, too?  Hopefully, our heart is in the right place and we are inviting those less fortunate, knowing they will never be able to repay us.  Jesus promises we will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. 

Jesus never mentions using the right fork or eating dessert before the main course. You will not find him scolding you for talking with your mouth full.  His etiquette lessons involve us acquiring and cultivating a heart with concern for the sick, the less fortunate, the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.  He always takes the side of the underdog, showing his love and forgiveness to those who had already been condemned by their peers.  I'm happy to learn his way.  After all, he loves me enough to invite me to his eternal feast.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sheltered Safely In His Arms

A long time ago I was making plans to drive to a nearby city hospital to visit with an elderly lady who had, the day before, surgery on her eyes.  She had always been such a blessing to everyone that visited her, and that day my visit to her hospital room was no different.  I was visiting out of concern for her successful eye surgery, as well as to offer encouraging words for a successful recovery. We spent some time laughing and joking with each other, and for a lady in her 90's, she still reflected the evidence of a happy life, loving the Lord while bringing happiness to the lives of others.

Our visit was interrupted that morning when the surgeon stopped by to check on her.  She had previously seen him in hospital scrubs but now she was seeing him in a suit and tie.  When he extended his hand to me as we met, it was his left hand he extended.  That's when I first noticed, he didn't have a right hand.  I wasn't the only one that noticed.....the patient noticed, too.

As I stood there wondering to myself about how a doctor with only one hand could do surgery on someone's eyes, my very thoughts were put into words by the elderly patient. "Do you mean to tell me you operated on my eyes and you only have one hand?  And didn't you have two hands when I was examined in your office a few days ago?"

The doctor explained that he had lost an arm overseas during a trip he took to assist military doctors in repairing eye injuries. After his recovery from the injuries, he was fitted with a robotic arm and hand which he was able to use during surgeries, but now, standing in a hospital room, he didn't have his robotic arm. We all had a good laugh at the patient's comments and the good spirit of the obviously talented surgeon.

I tell you that story to help you understand a weakness I often experience in my spiritual life.  I will call it the "Weakness of Doubting God."  Really there is more to it than doubt.  It is also a demonstration of a lack of faith.  Rather than trusting God to answer prayers or provide solutions, I want to try things my way first. It always brings me back to understanding my weakness, but God's power.  And, with the story of my visit to the hospital that day, here are some verses which show me I should be increasing my understanding about God's power.

The Lord redeemed Israel “with an outstretched arm”(Exod.6:6),   “The Lord has sworn by His right hand, and by His arm of strength” (Isa.62:8),  “So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deut. 26:8).  The scripture is filled with God's use of his arm and hand in action for the benefit of his people.

If I ever need eye surgery, I think I will give that doctor a call.  More than that, I thank him for reminding me of the powerful and sure arm and hand of God, used in directing me in right paths.

One of our songwriters uses a similar phrase as he describes the child of God as "sheltered safely in the arms of God."  Praise Him for his love and care.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I want to see.....

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”   Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”  Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.  “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”   “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.  Mark 10:46-52

What an amazing miracle! What an amazing demonstration of faith! Are we surprised when reading stories of people who have an encounter with Jesus, also have their need supplied? Bartimaeus was blind and wanted to see. He was persistent in calling out to Jesus, even when the people of Jericho tried to keep him quiet.  Notice that he kept calling louder and louder, until Jesus heard him. Then the miracle happened and Bartimaeus could see. Jesus told him that his faith had healed him. 

I confess to you, my experience in reading scripture and especially the gospel narratives, already had me convinced that Bartimaeus was going to be able to see.  I knew Jesus could make it happen. This miracle would join the other miracles, from turning water into wine all the way up to raising Lazarus from death. After all, Jesus was in the miracle-making business, not only to show his compassion on those who needed him, but also as a demonstration of God's power.

I was drawn to this story today because I feel there is a need for us all to call out to Jesus, and when he asks us as he did Bartimaeus, "What do you want me to do for you?" Our answer should be the same words Bartimaeus used in his reply, "I want to see!" Even if your vision is 20/20 or if you, like me, depend on eyeglasses or contact lenses, we still need help from above to see lots of things.  Here are a some for you to consider, but also think of others that could be added to your list.

1.  We need help seeing there are people around us every day that could be drawn closer to God through our example and our influence in sharing the Good News.

2.  We need to have our eyes opened to the needs of those around us, and those all the way around the world. We may feel our resources are not enough to help much, but as we have seen, minimum resources in the hands of God, can bring maximum results. 

3.  We are often so busy looking at the faults of others, our eyes are closed to the fact that we are sinners.  As long as we live, even those who are saved by God's grace, are a part of Adam's race and need to be aware of sin. Yes, God still loves and forgives us.  Our salvation should never become a source of isolation from others. Jesus can help us see the whole world is our harvest field. 

What else do you need to see?  Bartimaeus called out to Jesus, and so should we. 


Monday, October 24, 2016

Do you have doubts?

John 20:24-28
 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

The events leading to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus were now history. The resurrected Lord had made an appearance to Mary Magdalene, and in turn she notified the disciples, "I have seen the Lord!"

We can imagine the excitement in her voice when she made the news known to the followers of Jesus, sharing the good word that Jesus had risen. That evening when the disciples were together, Jesus stood among them and even talked to them. "Peace be with you!" He showed them his hands and side, and the Bible says they were overjoyed at seeing the Lord. 

Verse 24 in the above passage informs us that Thomas, one of the Twelve, wasn't present when Jesus made himself known to the disciples. We aren't told why Thomas was absent, but we are told when the disciples informed him they had seen Jesus, Thomas showed doubt, saying he would need to see the proof of the nail marks in his hand, and even touch those places where the nails were and where his side was cut. 

About a week later, Thomas did just that. The disciples were assembled again and Thomas was with them. Although their doors were locked, Jesus came and stood in their presence again. He spoke to Thomas and instructed him to reach out and touch the wounds for himself, and to stop doubting and believe. 

We still have skeptics today, even among us. We have moments of doubt and unbelief. But what was it that caused Thomas to doubt? He had witnessed the same things as the others, yet he still had trouble believing when they told him the Lord was alive. 

Perhaps the reason can be traced to his absence when the disciples first saw the risen Jesus. There may be something to this.  When we separate ourselves from other believers, do we have moments of doubt and unbelief? Is that when we have trouble maintaining our faith?
It happened to Thomas, and it happens to us the same way. Remember, Jesus is telling us, "Stop doubting and believe."


Saturday, October 22, 2016

I'm not ashamed

My son, Russell, posted this today and I want to share it with you.  This weekend post gives you an inside look at a movie soon to be released.  Here's what Russell says to introduce the preview:

Rachel Scott lost her life because of her faith in Jesus Christ in the school shooting in Littleton, Colorado. Saundra and I had the opportunity to hear her father speak years ago and tell her story. I still have artwork hanging in my office which is a copy of a page out of her diary. Rachel Scott believed she would live her life or Jesus and die for him at a young age. After delays and controversy, this weekend a movie based on her life will be released.

And now, here is the link for the movie trailer:

I hope you get a chance to see the movie.  Real people, like you and me, face the possibility and the reality of dying because of our faith in Jesus.  Columbine and events of that day made it increasingly real for Rachel Scott. But there is another reality.  It's the reality of serving God and others, sharing our story and passing to the entire world the message that Jesus willingly died for us. 

That's the message Rachel Scott wanted her friends and loved ones to know and understand. Not only that, she was still living God's message through her short life, because she believed she would die for Jesus.  It's an impossible guess for me to try to tell you how many lives changed because of the events in Colorado that day.  I still think about it and send prayers and love for each family that  mourns the loss of those who died.

Maybe through telling the story of Rachel's life in a movie, more of us will search our own answer to the question of dying for Jesus.  I am glad Rachel touched lives and was not ashamed.